"I wouldn't say until very recently [that] I truly on a cellular level felt unapologetic," comedian Whitney Cummings, 39, tells Yahoo Life. "People have seen me be confident, brave, brash, edgy [in my comedy], but that, to me, was a way of apologizing. 'I'm one of the guys! I'm not a girl! I can run with the best of them!' I think in my head, that was a very unapologetic way of living — but it actually was rooted in ‘Oh, I'm in this male dominated field. I can't be a woman, I can't be feminine.' I think a lot of people saw that as like, 'She just says it like it is.' But in fact, I was not. I didn't feel like I could be vulnerable. I didn't feel like I could be honest."
That fear of being vulnerable extended to how she approached health care.
"I remember when I first got medical care, and I went to a gynecologist, and I was like, too afraid to even ask questions," Cummings recalls. "I was like, 'Sorry, am I bothering you?' I didn't know what to ask. I didn't know what to say, you know, the word vagina was embarrassing or spooky."
The TV producer, 39, is now working with ANNOVERA, an annual birth control ring that allows her to take control of her reproductive health — which feels more important than ever given the current targeting of reproductive rights. As someone who plans on having kids in the future — she froze her eggs in her 30s as an "insurance policy" on the advice of writer Dana Fox — ANNOVERA is ideal, she says, because she can get pregnant without the procedures a long-term birth control like an IUD would require.
Taking control of her reproductive health, Cummings says, has made her unapologetic in other areas of her life — like dating.
"Before I froze my eggs, a guy that was kind of mediocre — I'd be like, 'I can fix this,'" the Good For You podcast host explains. "After [freezing my eggs], I would be like, 'Bye, I have eggs on ice. I don't need to do any of this.' There was just this freedom to it, whether I use them or not, that made me feel like I got another 10 years back. It took weight off. And I talk about it so much about it, even though I sometimes feel like it's elitist to talk about, because I think the more we talk about it, the more success we'll have getting covered by insurance."
Another topic Cummings has spoken about at length — including in her comedy and in her 2017 book I’m Fine…and Other Lies — is her battle with body dysmorphia and eating disorders. She had reconstructive surgery on breasts as her eating disorder impacted how her body developed during puberty. While Cummings came of age before social media, she says part of why she's open about her own issues is because she sees the impact of filters and Photoshop on the younger generation.
"If I was 13, and just developing my sense of self, and I was able to put a filter over my acne and see pictures of myself without acne? I just want to keep yelling about it so that it's something that people look into," she says. "And, you know, I had it before all this stuff, but it's not just magazines. It's not just media, it's not just models — it's also ancestral. You're inheriting certain epigenetics and genetics — this is something our parents, our moms and their moms dealt with. You're forced to shape shift into different sizes. We always have to shape-shift in order to fit some standard of beauty."
She recalls how the ultra-thin style of the ’90s gave way to everyone wanting a "big butt." Neither goal is particularly achievable for the average person, she explains.
"There's something liberating about going, 'Oh, there's no way I could achieve it, even if I wanted to. I might as well just learn to like myself," she says.
When it comes to the future, Cummings sees a world of possibilities ahead. She hopes parenthood is something she can experience, whether it’s through pregnancy, adoption or another avenue. She's also looking forward to what else her career will bring.
"I know that all the greatest comedians, around this time is when they start really hitting a new level — it's when we stop giving f****s," she says. "I just did my fifth special, and I feel like it's just getting started in terms of what I feel comfortable talking about. I feel like people know I can do this. I'm not just seen as a woman anymore. I feel brave, like I could talk about many other things. I didn't think I'd be able to do this this long."
If you or someone you know is struggling with an eating disorder, call the National Eating Disorders Association hotline at 1-800-931-2237.
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